Positioned on the hills of Jerusalem, looking out onto the Old City and Mount Zion is a restaurant named Touro. Here, against this romantic backdrop is the culinary masterwork of the Israeli Chef Benny Ashkenazi. Perfectly blending fine foods with panoramic views, it is no surprise that Touro has become one of Jerusalem’s hotspots for marriage proposals!
The restaurant is named after Yehuda Tura, the Jewish-American businessman and philanthropist. It was through his contributions to the poor of Jerusalem that the English financier and banker Sir Moses Montefiore established two of the first Jewish neighborhoods outside the Old City walls in 1860 – Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha’ananim. It is in this area where the restaurant is located.
Having studied at the Tadmor Culinary School and trained for sixteen years alongside Israel’s most distinguished chefs at restaurants like Isadora, Francesca and Pepe, Chef Benny Ashkenazi deemed himself ready to establish his own kitchen. With assistance from business partners Elisha Ehrlich and Itzhik Ankonina, Touro opened its doors to the public in June 2013.
Benny said that when he first came here he fell in love with the breathtaking views and realized the site’s potential. The 19th century architecture remains intact, but a chic décor consisting of a striking black and white tiled floor, bright red chairs and ceiling lights in the shape of glass jars have all been added to the restaurant’s interior. At the back of the main room is a large open counter and bar stools where you can watch Benny preparing his dishes. In the adjacent room is a cozy and intimate wine bar where guests can retire to after their meal. Alternatively, on a warm summer’s day you can sit outside on the expansive veranda lit by Japanese lanterns and decked out with white vintage tables and chairs – capable of seating at least 100 people.
Touro’s cuisine revolves around the recipes of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origins enlivened with Asian inspiration. The result is a fusion of flavors manifested in original, exotic delicacies. Each dish has been carefully thought out and is presented to the utmost perfection. Listed on the menu for the first course, among others, is chopped liver served with creamed onions, silan date honey, pickles and walnuts (34NIS) as well as a colorful salmon tartar mixed with green and red onions, avocado pieces, grapefruit segments, beetroot, hijaki noodles, peanuts and cucumber (58NIS). In addition there is a sophisticated spin on the Middle Eastern street-food staple bourekas – here stuffed with mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes and served with tahini, tomatoes, kalamata olives, arugula, spring onions, red onions and pickles (34NIS).
When it comes to the main course, if fine, succulent cuts of meat are flirting with your taste buds then the ‘shprondra’ is a must-have. This is a beef short-ribs casserole braised in the oven on a low heat for seven hours served with haricot beans, mushrooms, pumpkin, onion and green beans (110NIS). Other complex and captivating meat options include the chicken breast with smoked paprika served with black lentils, mushrooms, pumpkin, onion, peas, smoked goose breast and red wine (62NIS) and the ground lamb cooked with tehina, potatoes, pickled lemon, onion, grilled tomatoes and parsley (68NIS). But rich meats only account for a portion of the menu. If fish takes your fancy there is the salmon fillet with creamed potatoes, onion, mushrooms, green beans, almonds, mint and citrus caramel (82NIS) or the mullet chreimeh – a Moroccan fish stew in a lightly spiced cumin sauce accompanied by pumpkin, chickpeas and garlic and garnished with coriander (68 NIS). For vegetarians the menu offers a selection of freshly made gnocchi and risotto dishes each cooked with a large variety of vegetables and herbs (around 60NIS).
The dessert menu brings with it no disappointments for those with a sweet tooth. From the decadent chocolate cake with wild berry sorbet to the refreshing mango soufflé with meringue crumbs, halva, almonds, honey dates mint and strawberry sorbet Touro has it all.